21 Jul Mums going back to study – a helpful guide
Whether you are a working mum or a stay-at-home mum, the decision to go back to study is a big one.
Maybe you’re looking to gain further qualifications in your current field, preparing for re-entry into the workforce, or working towards a higher paying or more satisfying job down the track. Or maybe you are looking to branch out in a completely new professional direction.
Whatever your motivation, going back to study comes with its challenges – especially when you are a busy mum who already has her hands full.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve a balance between your work, family and study commitments.
Look into childcare options:
Think about the extra help you might need with looking after the kids while you study.
You could find a nanny to hire as a way of gaining more flexibility in regards to scheduling your kid-free study time.
Knowing that the kids are being well looked after will give you peace of mind and make it easier for you to focus on your study.
Get the family onboard:
Family support is hugely important when you are taking the plunge to return to study. Make sure everyone is up to speed about your exciting new commitment and what it is going to mean for them.
Secure a study space:
Creating a designated place for studying will make an enormous difference to how you study. Find a place away from distractions – somewhere that will allow you to get into the study-zone and enjoy some peace and quiet. This could be a home office, the local library, or even just a desk in the corner of your bedroom – whatever works for you.
Create a study timetable:
Continual distractions and ever-changing family schedules are some of the most common challenges faced by studying mums. Creating a study timetable will help you get your head around what you’re doing and when. Having a timetable can also be useful in helping your partner and kids to understand your busy times.
If at all possible, try to secure substantial blocks of time that you can dedicate to study. For example, pick one night a week as “study night” and stick to it. Work out when you are at your most productive and arrange to do the bulk of your work then.
It can also be useful to treat your study like a job. This means trying to keep regular study or “work” hours each week and planning holidays away from it.
Schedule in important activities:
Whether it’s family or work commitments, schedule all the important activities into your study timetable to ensure nothing is forgotten.
Take study opportunities whenever you can:
Even if you are only able to study for 30 minutes at a time, make those 30 minutes count! Short bursts of study can be just as effective as all-nighters.
Plan for some “me time”:
Remember that study is work, too. Schedule in time for yourself, whether it’s exercise, relaxation time or a hobby you enjoy.
Rather than trying (and failing) to do everything, aim to achieve the top 3 items on your to-do list each day.
Understand that some things are going to fall by the wayside. For example, your house may get really messy. Try not to sweat the small stuff.
Try to do something physical each day. Eat well and make sure you have healthy, nutritious food on hand and in the house. Also try to get enough sleep so that you are refreshed and ready to tackle each new day.
Think about meal planning:
Make your busy times less stressful by having meals prepared in advance. Have a big cook-up on the weekend and freeze meals that can be thawed and eaten throughout the week.
Make sure you are up to speed with learning technologies:
This is especially important if you are going to be studying online. Make sure you learn how to navigate the online classrooms and learning tools BEFORE semester starts. There may be electronic resources you need to access, headsets to purchase and software to download in order for you to get your study off to a smooth start.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself:
There will be tough times. There will be times when you will feel completely overwhelmed and stressed out – usually in the lead up to assignment deadlines and exams. There will be times when you sit down to study, only to discover that your brain is refusing to cooperate. There will be times when you feel guilty about how much your study commitments are eating into your family time.
Remember to go easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to not be the world’s most perfect mum/partner/student while you are studying. It is simply not possible.
It can also help to have a strategy for staying motivated during the tough times.
One suggestion is to write a letter to yourself, reminding your future self of your reasons for commencing study, your goals, and the benefits you hope to achieve in the long run.